South Asian Games: Pakistan thrashes India 1-0 in men’s hockey!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Notwithstanding its poor sport profile in general and very poor show especially in the ongoing South Asian Games, Pakistan has come out with flying colors in men’s hockey on February 12 in Indian town of Guwahati in the North Eastern state of Assam.
Pakistan clinched the gold medal and notched up a hat-trick of titles in the South Asian Games. India continued their gold medal drought in the tournament. India produced a disappointing performance to lose to arch-rivals Pakistan 0-1 in a lacklustre summit clash of men’s hockey at the 12th South Asian Games here on Friday.
Pakistan’s glory Awaisur Rehman scored the lone goal of the match in added time of the first half as Pakistan clinched the gold medal and notched up a hat-trick of titles in the South Asian Games. A lacklustre India, having got maximum medial from the regional sport event, suffered a goalless 0-1 defeat at the hands of arch-rivals Pakistan in their much-anticipated group match of men’s hockey event at the 12th South Asian Games in Guwahati.
There was excitement ahead of the much-awaited match with the near capacity crowd cheering the home players, but it did not rise to any great heights for Indians , except for a short spell in the second half.
Pakistan completely dominated the first half, leading 1-0, and though India pressed for an equalizer with several raids into the opposition post towards the end of the match, the goal did not come for the home country. Lacking in experience, the Indians played their hearts out with Captain Mandeep Antil and senior most player Gurbaj taking the extra load. Gurbaj played deep at times to help the defenders while also pushing himself to shore up the attack. But the inexperienced Indians did not get the combination right and were poor in trapping at times.
Pakistan straightaway put India under pressure and they had two clear look at the home side goal but an alert goalkeeper, Vikas Dahiya, blocked twice to keep the match in a clean slate. Pakistan attacked mostly from the right and a Muhammad Rizwan strike was parried by Dahiya. The Indian goalkeeper then denied Pakistan once again in the seventh as he blocked the penalty corner. Pakistan attacked mostly from the right and a Muhammad Rizwan strike was parried by Dahiya. The Indian goalkeeper then denied Pakistan once again in the seventh as he blocked the penalty corner.
Indian crowd showing funny faces, as expected, began restless with Pakistan dominating and attacking with the Indians doing desperate defending and they were saved virtually on the goal-line by Nilam Xess after Pakistan broke through from the left flank. In a rare attack against the run of play, India had a close chance in the 21st minute, but failed.
With at least half a dozen Olympians in their ranks as against India’s one in Gurbaj Singh, Pakistan dominated for most part of the match. India conceded a soft goal in the added time of the first half as Awaisur slotted home after the reverse hit by Muhammad Arslan Qadir could not be cleared on time by the Indian defenders.
India had also lost 1-2 to Pakistan in the group stage of the ongoing Games. Earlier, Pakistan and India had met on Feb 08 in the group stages when Muhammad Arslan Qadir scored both the goals for Pakistan in the 11th and 37th minutes while Indian captain Mandeep Antil pulled one back in the 55th minute of the match at the Moullana Tyabulla Stadium. The much-awaited match of the Games played between second string sides of the two countries did not rise to any heights as there were few very goal-scoring chances.
There was not much spark either on the field as both sides lacked creativity for most of the time. This was the first time both sides were playing against each other after the controversy in the 2014 Champions League match in Bhubaneswar. The Indian side, without a host of top stars, lacked coordination and had mispasses galore as they have not played together often and the defence was vulnerable. There was not much to differentiate between the two sides in the first half, though Pakistan had slight edge. The inexperienced Indian defence gave space to the Pakistan forwards especially at the right flank.
Pakistan players were all set to take on their Indian counterparts in the final of the South Asian Games at the Tayebulla Hockey Stadium in Guwahati, India on Friday the February 12 with one eye on the glory of defeating their arch-rivals and the other on completing a hat-trick of titles. Pakistan fielded a strong side with several of the national players in the squad, while a over confident India fielded a relatively inexperienced squad with only two senior players in the team.
With a 2-1 win already in the bag over their arch-rivals in the group stages, Pakistan was confident of defending their crown. forward Mohammad Arslan Qadir, who has consistently been effective against India as he scored both the goals in the 2-1 group-stage win and slotted the winner in the 4-3 win over India in the 2014 Champions Trophy final, is all pumped up and ready to repeat his match-winning performance in yet another final against the same opponent.
From one such early raid, Pakistan took the lead in the 11th minute. In a fast build-up deep from Pakistan half, Fareed Ahmed sent a pass to Muhammad Arslan Qadir whose push on the run beat Indian goalkeeper Pankaj Rajak.
The Green shirts were favorites to lift the hockey crown as they are currently the only side to remain unbeaten in the tournament and have a historical advantage of defeating their rivals twice at the same stage of the Games — in the 2004 and 2010 finals.
Pakistan has now has come a distant third in medal tally while India topped the tally followed by Sri Lanka. Other South Asian teams are just participated to make India a strong sport nation. By claiming three silver and 11 bronze medals on the sixth day of the Games, Pakistan took their medal tally to 72 and remained on third position, with a total of seven gold, 22 silver and 43 bronze medals. India lead with 237 medals — 139 gold, 78 silver, 20 bronze — followed by Sri Lanka with 151 medals — 25 gold, 50 silver, 76 bronze.
Pakistan had won the hockey gold in 2006 and 2010 editions, beating India in the final on both occasions.
Undoubtedly the South Asian Games, initiated by India, benefits mainly India as it uses the SAG events as a major training source cum measure to world sport events. Pakistan is not keen about sports except the false sport called cricket. Sri Lanka is now making efforts to make its mark in sports. Bangladesh is confused whether it should follow India or Pakistan in sports. While India reaps colossal fruits from SAG, other regional nations just waste their resources by sending sport people without proper returns. Unfortunate!
Having won the gold medal at South Asian meet, Pakistan now would obviously focus on Rio Olympics. Pakistan may not have hopes in other sports. However, even in hockey the task won’t be easy for Pakistan as there are many world teams with better equipment.
Pakistan also should focus on all sports as India has been doing as its long term sport plan, even while being busy with cross border fires with Pakistan, even though it is targeting Muslim Kashmiri lives in order to stop them from seeking sovereignty form new Delhi, and to silence them and make them pro-Indians.